The Case For Tony Carr As Big Ten Player Of The Year
It doesn’t get any silkier or smoother than Tony Carr’s game as Penn State’s point guard. This season, you could argue that the Big Ten hasn’t seen another player as effective and important to his team, either.
Carr is Penn State hoops’ most crucial player at the moment, and he’s really playing like it. He’s been on such a roll, in fact, that he’s made his way into the Big Ten Player of the Year conversation — and for good reason. Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop was the clear frontrunner before Pat Chambers’ squad went on a tear which Carr capped off with a 30-point outpouring against the Buckeyes in Happy Valley.
Tony Carr’s game can be analyzed in two respects: his numbers and his intangible impact. We’ll start with the numbers, because it’s always fun to dive into the stats sheet.
Tony Carr recently took over the lead in the Big Ten in scoring, just ahead of Bates-Diop, who averages 19.0 points per game versus Carr’s 19.6. The 6’7″ redshirt junior does own a significant advantage in rebounding, however, as he reels in 8.7 boards per game. Carr accounts for 4.6 per game.
Where Penn State’s point guard stands out is his efficiency. Carr is shooting 46.4 percent from distance, which is second-best in the conference this season, compared to Bates-Diop’s 37.5 percent clip. Carr also edges out Bates-Diop in free throw percentage and has racked up 4.9 assists per game, good enough for fifth in the conference.
I’d argue that the three-point field goal percentage and assists are his most impressive stats, given that the Nittany Lions started off Big Ten play looking like they took a step back from last season. Other than Carr, the scoring options didn’t abound for Penn State, so finding players for open shots and creating some offense wasn’t easy for the squad’s main distributor (nor much fun to watch).
Last season, some would say that Carr’s shooting from range left something to be desired as he shot just 32 percent from three. Not only has he become one of the highest-percentage three-point shooters in the Big Ten, but he’s also shooting a lot of threes — he sits tied for fifth in made threes this season. That stat just goes to show that he’s not only draining them at a high rate, but he’s not afraid to let it fly, either.
That nice little factoid provides a nice transition into the aspects of Carr’s game that don’t show up on the scoresheet. Carr isn’t afraid to take over a game when his team is looking for its go-to guy.
This season alone, Carr has forced overtime against Minnesota and walked off in Columbus with buzzer beaters. When the game is on the line, the ball’s going to Penn State’s No. 10 and everybody in the arena knows it. Having the ability to consistently make it happen in those circumstances is what separates great players from the rest.
OH CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?!? pic.twitter.com/UXL9hG5uBA
— Onward State (@OnwardState) January 26, 2018
The most striking difference between Carr and Bates-Diop can be boiled down to their head to head matchup recently. Bates-Diop put up just 10 points, five rebounds, and two assists compared to Carr’s 30 points, five rebounds, and three dimes. Carr outplayed Bates-Diop in just about every aspect of the game.
That’s also not to mention that the Buckeye seems to be trending in the wrong direction. For example, he scored just six points against Rutgers on Tuesday night in 29 minutes of play, shooting 27.3 percent from the field.
All of this isn’t to take away from Bates-Diop, who is clearly one of the most effective players in the country. But Carr gains some separation, arguably, due to the fact that he’s been the man to take down the Buckeyes on two separate occasions — the only two Big Ten losses for Ohio State to that point in the season.
Carr is simply the guy for a Penn State team with less depth and less developed talent than Ohio State. Carr, Lamar Stevens, and Mike Watkins anchor the team, while freshman Jamari Wheeler and sophomore Nazeer Bostick put in significant shifts as well. Apart from Reaves, Garner, and Moore, the Nittany Lions are still very young.
The circumstances and roster that Carr finds himself in make his performances this season make him at this point the most convincing candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year.